Saffron Downgrading of Education Rears Its Head Again

The Modi Government has been in power for a very short time – and already, we can see the disturbing signs of saffron forces downgrading the quality of schooling, higher education and research.

The appointment of Y Sudarshan Rao as Chief of the Indian Council of Historical Research is the first signal that the Government is allowing saffron ideology rather than academic worth be the criterion for heading academic institutions.

Rao lacks publications in peer reviewed journals, and his academic work is confined to blog posts. Without such academic publications, Rao’s writings are no better than ideologically-coloured opinions. And those opinions in themselves are cause for concern. Rao in his articles has declared that in ancient times the caste system worked well, and that this system in the historical past should not be viewed through the lens of modern democratic values.

This justification of a Brahminical hierarchy that epitomises discrimination is nothing new for Sangh ideology. Sangh founder Golwalkar rationalised caste hierarchy by comparing it to different limbs of the body: “If a developed society realizes that the existing differences are due to the scientific social structure and that they indicate the different limbs of body social, the diversity would not be construed as a blemish.” (Organiser, 1 December 1952, p. 7) Deendayal Upadhyaya, another prominent RSS figure, similarly argued, “In our concept of four castes (varnas), they are thought of as different limbs of virat purush (the primeval man)…These limbs are not only complimentary to one another but even further there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interests, identity, belonging…If this idea is not kept alive, the caste instead of being complimentary can produce conflict. But then that is a distortion.” (D. Upadhyaya, Integral Humanism, New Delhi, Bharatiya Jansangh, 1965, p. 43) Now, this open rationalisation of the unconstitutional and discriminatory caste system will head of India’s premier historical research body.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Rao’s writings extol the ideas of those who have openly called for India to relinquish its secular Constitution and become a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation).

It has come to light that the Gujarat Government has printed textbooks authored by Dinanath Batra on a mass scale, with a foreword by former Gujarat CM Narendra Modi (who is PM today), and has made them mandatory supplementary reading in Gujarat schools.

The content of these textbooks would be laughably absurd – except that when they carry the endorsement of the PM and a State Government uses taxpayers’ money to promote them, it is no longer funny. It becomes a cruel joke with the minds of young impressionable students.

It is embarrassing that the man who is India’s Prime Minister today, officially endorses textbooks that teach students to reject the map of India and instead learn to draw the map of the Sangh fiction of ‘Akhand Bharat’ that includes India’s neighbouring countries and regions.

Batra’s books claim to promote ‘Indian culture’ instead of ‘Western culture’, but only promotes caste Hindu rituals of North India. Why are the cultural practices of dalits, minorities, or of various Indian regions, not considered Indian culture by him?

Worse still, his textbooks include stories that would be considered offensively racist and communal by any professional educationist. These stories refer to a Black person as a ‘negro’ and compare him to a ‘buffalo’; to Indians’ colour being that of ‘a roti cooked right’ as opposed to being ‘burnt’ like that of Blacks; comparing ‘foreigners’ to the shoes on the feet of an Indian; and suggesting that a Muslim freedom fighter’s objection to Vande Mataram made him anti national. Batra is also on record objecting to the use of ordinary spoken Hindustani words which he claims are words of ‘foreign’ origin.

Apart from these, the books are full of historical absurdities that claim ancient Indians invented cars, stem cell therapy, and so on.

Batra has boasted that the HRD Minister has promised to introduce his proposed changes in syllabi on a national scale. Parallel to the Modi Government’s move to set up a commission to reform education, Batra has set up a Non-Governmental Education Commission (NGEC) that is pushing the Government to ‘Indianise’ education.

The Prime Minister needs to break his silence and explain why his name is used to endorse and promote Batra’s absurd books. And the HRD Minister needs to tell the country what her Ministry’s stand is on the Gujarat Government’s promotion of obscurantist, unscientific, communal and racist material among young children.

The Gujarat Model was promoted by Mr Modi at corporate expense, as the epitome of ‘development’ and ‘progress.’ Today, Gujarat’s model of school education stands exposed as the worst joke with the country’s students. We have seen Shiv Sena MPs shamefully force feed a Muslim man to make him break his fast, with no action taken against them. The Modi Government cannot be allowed to force feed the myths and falsehoods of the RSS shakhas, to the country’s children in the name of education.